Your essential update on health for the week.

HSJ Catch Up

This weekly email gives HSJ subscribers a vital update on the biggest stories from the last week in health. If you have been out of the office or otherwise just too busy to keep up, HSJ Catch Up will ensure you are still in the know.

Eleventh hour

Free money is always an attractive proposition, so no one can blame trusts for taking advantage of NHS regulations which allow them to use some of the proceeds from land sales to access extra provider sustainability funding.

Two Surrey trusts – Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals Foundation Trust and Surrey and Borders Partnership FT – have done just that, scraping under the wire with a major land sale in March, just days ahead of changes in the regulations around how this money is used.

From this financial year onwards, trusts will not be able to use “profits on disposal” – the difference between the sale price of an asset and the value recorded in its accounts – towards their control total.

Guide the way

Primary care networks are being presented as the building blocks of integrated care systems. They will, at least in theory, enable GPs and other primary clinicians to collaborate like never before to tackle the specific needs of their local neighbourhoods. This is scheduled to be the new normal from 1 July.

But there has been some speculation as to how already scaled-up primary care organisations will slot into the PCN model.

The chief executive of one such at-scale provider, the Modality Partnership, provided some clarity in a recent interview with HSJ.

Empty seat

The merger between NHS England and NHS Improvement has prompted plenty of senior leadership changes already, but still the process rumbled on, even at the highest levels.

In addition to the debacle over the NHSI chief executive and NHSE deputy posts, the role of chief commercial officer has not yet been filled after a first attempt to recruit. A spokesman for the regulators told HSJ the appointment had been delayed due to the role being redesigned.

The role redesign may be added with responsibilities of specialised commissioning (whether all or part of this portfolio, we are not yet totally sure), commercial aspects of medicines, and innovation and life sciences.

War of words

Last year, King’s College Hospital FT found itself being told to shell out £1m (and on the receiving end of some unenviable publicity), after an employment tribunal decided an IT manager had been unfairly dismissed and racially discriminated against.

Months later, the case is still haunting the board. Unite branch secretary Frank Wood has been in heated correspondence with both the new chair and Peter Herring, the then interim chief executive, about the trust’s commitment to equality and other matters.

A statement from Mr Wood, sent to Unite members, called for the exit of the director of workforce Dawn Brodrick. He claimed she had not done enough to promote equality of opportunity.

This led to an email from Mr Herring warning him against “harassment”, adding the trust could seek legal advice.

Financial innovation

King’s College Hospital FT was working hard to staunch its deficit in 2017-18.

But booking £10m of income by selling your scanning equipment to a wholly-owned company, who pay for it with a loan you made them, is pretty arcane, even for King’s.

King’s Facilities Management, the company, and its relationship with the trust came in for criticism from PwC in its report into what went wrong there.

Another false start?

This month, 300 medical examiners were supposed to start reviewing all hospital deaths in England and Wales, as part of a major effort to improve patient safety and reform the UK’s outdated death certification system.

Despite a decade of delays and false starts since legislation was originally passed in 2009, the newly designed system of examiners based in acute hospitals is now at least reality in a “handful” of locations.

New national medical examiner Alan Fletcher has signalled he expects all areas to have a medical examiner in place by 2020, with all deaths, including community and mental health patients, reviewed from 2021.

Not cut, deferred

NHS England has confirmed its latest tech fund – the £412m “health system led investment fund” – spent about a third less than planned in its first year.

The national commissioning body has stressed this is not funding cut, but funding deferred until next year. It also argued the reason the money didn’t make it out the door was because local NHS organisations didn’t get organised in time.

By some accounts, distributing the health system led investment funding had already been delayed by nearly a year by the time the new health and social care secretary Matt Hancock announced it in his maiden speech in July last year. Now, for some, it will be delayed for a further year again.

Defending HEE

In his first interview as chair of Health Education England, Sir David Behan has spoken candidly about the need for less fragmentation and more collaboration between the arm’s-length bodies when it comes to workforce planning.

The former Care Quality Commission chief said he was surprised by the fragmentation of workforce development, adding it is simply too important an issue to let this continue.

Sir David also revealed the continued professional development cuts were not as straightforward as they seem. He described a “trade-off” between paying for training and paying for nurses, in which training lost.